Mining machine operators control machines that extract coal, ore, stone, and sand from mines or quarries.
Mining is the process of extracting natural minerals from the earth. There are two types of mining: surface mining and underground mining. The type of mine depends on how deep the minerals are under the earth's surface. Both mine cutting and channeling machine operators and continuous mining machine operators work in each type of mine to extract minerals.
Cutting machine operators cut a strip under the mineral seam to control where the ore will fall. They use a huge electric chain saw, with a blade from six to 15 feet long, to cut the strip, or "kerf." Channeling machine operators drill holes in the ore where workers place explosives. This process is very dangerous and is being phased out.
Continuous mining eliminates the drilling and blasting of conventional mining. It uses a machine called the continuous miner. Continuous mining machine operators sit or lie in the machine's cab. They operate levers that control the ripper bars that cut or rip minerals out of the mine face. The same machine can load the ore directly onto a conveyor or shuttle car. Some of these machines can be operated by remote control, which increases safety.
Both types of mining machine operators must observe the operation of their equipment. They listen to the mining sounds to be sure the equipment is operating properly. Most operators repair and adjust their machines. They lubricate them and replace broken or worn parts.